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July 18, 2009 - Thunder Over Michigan

I elected to go see the Blue Angels fly one more time this year, this time at the Thunder Over Michigan air show at the Willow Run Airport just west of Detroit.  I flew up on Friday, went to the show on Saturday and returned home on Sunday.  I split each trip into three legs.  Before the details of the trip, here is a video of the Blue Angels performance: (note - there was a pretty good breeze all afternoon, so you will hear some "wind noise" in the video) (Special Note - if the video seems choppy after starting, click the red HD button in the lower right corner.)

The first leg on Friday was to Athens, GA.  I got past the north FL area that would fill in with thunderstorms later in the day, but I had to detour around an active military operation area in southern GA, then straight into Athens.


flight path st pete to athens

The second leg involved dodging some storms in southern WV, and again in northern WV, within about 20 minutes of landing at Lunken Field in Cincinnati.  There is a nice aviation themed restaurant on the field here, but I elected to continue on.


flight path athens to cincinnati

The third leg was to Willow Run Airport.  This was an uneventful leg except for a small diversion around Dayton, where there was another air show scheduled.


flight path cincinnati to ann arbor

On Saturday morning, I joined up with Pat & Jack, friends from Dearborn, at the FBO where I parked the airplane.  I showed them the airplane for a while, and then we took advantage of super service as one of the workers drove us to the other side of the airfield for entrance to the show.  At the end of the show, we got a ride back to the FBO, which was fantastic because there was a lot of traffic around the airport and we were able to avoid all of it.  We finished the day with dinner and a couple of beers.

The return trip on Sunday followed the same route as Friday.  The first stop was Lunken Field.  It was good that I got out of Willow Run before the airspace became restricted, or I might have had to watch the show again.


flight path ann arbor to cincinnati

The second leg was back down to Athens.  This leg was flown right at the top of the could layer - see the short video of flying in the clouds below.


flight path cincinnati to athens

Shortly after departure on the third leg, I was given a direct route into FL, as you can see.  While at Athens, I checked the radar picture for arrival in St. Pete, and saw some storms moving in from the Gulf, so I was in no hurry to get there.  I also tracked the storms on my onboard weather display, and was able to miss almost all of the rain.


flight path athens to st pete

Interesting fact - Google Maps estimates the distance from the departure airport to the arrival airport at 1,189 miles, with a driving time of 18.4 hours nonstop, an average of almost 65 miles per hour.  On the return trip, I covered the same distance in about 7.75 hours, including stops, for an average of 153 miles per hour.  Including just the time in the air of 6.15 hours, the average speed on Sunday was 193 miles per hour.

In addition to the Blue Angels and a bunch of other warbirds at this show, we were honored to see flyovers by two other unique airplanes.  Watch this short video of them.

And finally, here is a few minutes in the clouds on the way home.